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Am J Primatol. 2004 Apr;62(4):243-59.

Response to social challenge in young bonnet (Macaca radiata) and pigtail (Macaca nemestrina) macaques is related to early maternal experiences.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, Colorado 80220, USA.


Previous experience affects how young primates respond to challenging social situations. The present retrospective study looked at one aspect of early experience, the quality of the mother-infant relationship, to determine its relationship to young bonnet and pigtail macaques' responses to two social challenges: temporary maternal separation at 5-6 months and permanent transfer to an unfamiliar peer group at 16-17 months. Relationship quality was measured quantitatively on 30 macaque mother-infant pairs with the Relationship Quality Index (RQI), the ratio of relative affiliation to relative agonism as previously applied to capuchin monkeys. Infants with high RQI values had amicable mother-infant relationships and infants with low RQI values had agonistic mother-infant relationships. Young monkeys with amicable and agonistic relationships showed consistent differences in behavior before, during, and after each social challenge, supporting the hypothesis that juveniles from amicable mother-infant relationships based on the RQI coped more effectively with social challenges than did juveniles from agonistic mother-infant relationships. Results suggest 1) characteristic amicability or agonism in early mother-offspring macaque relationships has the potential to influence offspring behavior in tense social contexts and 2) the RQI is useful as one of a coordinated suite of methods for studying the development of social skills.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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